Grind Development

When you’ve got an expensive machine capable of doing amazing things to ski bases, why wouldn’t you mess around and try to do your best with structure design? Most grinders have access to some older recycled grinds from Europe, but Europe isn’t North America, and ten years ago isn’t today. Even when standby structures like LJ02 and LJ03 are still a factor in races nearly twenty years after they were developed, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t always be trying for something better.

The biggest impediment to grind development is time for testing. Even when you’ve got time to put skis on the snow, you’re always only testing where you are. That’s why we use guinea pigs ski racers for our final round of testing before we release a grind to the public. Ski racers are useful, because they’re plentiful, and they travel a lot to a wide variety of locations. They’re also quick to tell you when the grinds are really good, and when they’re really bad. And they would know – because they’re actually racing which is something us ski service guys don’t do much of anymore.

This year you’ll see some new structures on the grind menu. All of these structures have been used with good success in races, and almost all of them have been used by the four guys most visible at the front of the pack in this picture from Spring Series.

Kris Freeman (bib 2) had early success with a second place in the FIS skate race in Muonio in mid-November on an S2-1X. He raced the same ski three more times before it got broken on the flight home from the Tour de Ski as I was carrying it back for a regrind. A couple of weeks after Kris’s Muonio race, Tad Elliot (yellow hat) dominated the West Yellowstone Supertour skate race on the S2-1X. Sylvan Ellefson (bib 13) also found the S2-1X to be satisfactory, putting together a string of domestic success (with wins at the Owl Creek Chase and the Boulder Mountain Tour) before heading to Europe where he had a couple of outstanding OPA cup results. Noah Hoffman (bib 6) Missed out on the early action with the new grinds, but made up time later in the season, including his 50K at World Championships where he had great skis on an L2-0S.

We don’t often send purely experimental grinds out on race skis – there is a lot of testing and development work that goes into producing these structures before the racers get on them. But working with athletes remains the most important part of the development process.